All of Jay_Schweikert's Comments + Replies

Rationality Quotes December 2014

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation, For fear they should succumb and go astray; So when you are requested to pay up or be molested, You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld, No matter how trifling the cost; For the end of that game is oppression and shame, And the nation that pays it is lost!"

--Rudyard Kipling, "Dane-Geld"

A nice reminder about the value of one-boxing, especially in light of current events.

1hairyfigment7yYou don't see that last link as a publicity stunt? I tentatively suspect that it is - though maybe I should put that under 50% - with a lot of the remaining probability going to blackmail of some individual(s).
Rationality Quotes December 2014

All the logical work (if not all the rhetorical work) in “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” is being done by the decision about what aspects of liberty are essential, and how much safety is at stake. The slogan might work as a reminder not to make foolish tradeoffs, but the real difficulty is in deciding which tradeoffs are wise and which are foolish. Once we figure that out, we don’t need the slogan to remind us; before we figure it out, the slogan doesn’t really help us.

... (read more)
9elharo7yIt strikes me that the original Franklin quote really identifies a specific case of the availability heuristic. That is, when you're focused on safety, you tend to adopt policies that increase safety, without even considering other values such as liberty. There may also be an issue of externalities here. This is really, really common in law enforcement. For example, consider civil asset forfeiture. It is an additional legal tool that enables police to catch and punish more criminals, more easily. That it also harms a lot of innocent people is simply not considered because their is no penalty to the police for doing so. All the cost is borne by people who are irrelevant to them.

I mostly agree, but I think the slogan (like, I think, many others about which similar things could be said) has some value none the less.

A logically correct but uninspiring version would go like this:

It is a common human failing to pay too much attention to safety and not enough to liberty. As a result, we (individually and corporately) will often be tempted to give up liberty in the name of safety, and in many such cases this will be a really bad tradeoff. So don't do that.

-- Not Benjamin Franklin

Franklin's slogan serves as a sort of reminder that (1... (read more)

3Weedlayer7yThe quote always annoyed me too. People bring it up for ANY infringement on liberty, often leaving off the words "Essential" and "Temporary", making a much stronger version of the quote (And of course, obviously wrong). Tangentially, Sword of Good was my introduction to Yudkowsky, and by extension, LW.
Personal examples of semantic stopsigns

I'm torn on "it's complicated." Clearly, you're correct that it can function as a powerful semantic stopsign. But increasingly, I also find that it's actually an entirely appropriate and even useful response (or at least an initial response) to many questions, especially political/policy/legal/normative questions.

For example, imagine a poll asking American citizens the following question: "In one sentence, what would you say is the major problem with the American health care system?" Now imagine the people who respond with something lik... (read more)

2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Answered every question to which I had an answer. I haven't spent much time on Less Wrong recently, but it's really pretty remarkable how just answering Less Wrong surveys causes me to think more seriously than just about anything else I come across in any given week.

Rationality Quotes September 2013

Zortran, do you ever wonder if it's all just meaningless?

What's "meaningless?"

It's like... wait, really? You don't have that word? It's a big deal over here.

No. Is it a good word? What does it do?

It's sort of like... what if you aren't important? You know... to the universe.

Wait... so humans have a word to refer to the idea that it'd be really sad if all of reality weren't focused on them individually?

Kinda, yeah.

We call that "megalomania."

Well, you don't have to be a jerk about it.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Using Evolution for Marriage or Sex

I'm not quite sure what to make of this post as a whole. I find myself appreciative of the general point, and a lot of it seems to register with me, but I also agree that more precise sourcing would be desirable for such a controversial and empirically open-ended subject.

But the main reason why I wanted to comment is that Bang With Friends seems like such an obvious and obviously value-adding concept that I was surprised I'd never heard of anything like it before. If I were in the position of looking for additional sexual partners right now (and if the pri... (read more)

0MileyCyrus9yA lot of developers have tried to make this app. I first noticed a version in 2007, back when Facebook had just started with apps. Edit:* Holy shit, apparently it's worth $30 million. []
Help us name the Sequences ebook

I like the general point about something catchy with pizzazz. "Being Less Wrong" is my favorite so far, but it could probably be improved on. "Winning: Theory and Practice" is also pretty good, though I wonder whether there's too much of an association between "winning" and Charlie Sheen. Maybe that's a silly concern, but we wouldn't want anyone to think this was just a joking reference to that.

Help us name the Sequences ebook

Is it helpful for the phrase "The Sequences" to appear in the title? My sense is that anyone who's already familiar enough with the Sequences to know what it means isn't going to need that phrase to be interested in the book, and that the phrase doesn't add much value for someone who's never heard of the Sequences before. It's sort of a weird word that doesn't immediately suggest anything about rationality.

The only people for whom it would add value would be those who (1) have at least sort of heard of the Sequences and are somewhat interested; ... (read more)

Rationality Quotes April 2013

Jack Sparrow: [after Will draws his sword] Put it away, son. It's not worth you getting beat again.

Will Turner: You didn't beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I'd kill you.

Jack Sparrow: Then that's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it? [Jack turns the ship, hitting Will with the boom]

Jack Sparrow: Now as long as you're just hanging there, pay attention. The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man

... (read more)
1Eugine_Nier9yFrankly this is precisely the kind of ruthless pragmatism that gives utilitarians such a horrible reputation.

The pirate-specific stuff is a bit extraneous

Jack Sparrow: The only rules that really matter are these: what a [person] can do and what a [person] can't do. For instance, you can accept that [different customs from yours are traditional and commonly accepted in the world] or you can't. But [this thing you dislike] is [an inevitable feature of your human existence], boy, so you'll have to square with that some day ... So, can you [ally with somebody you find distasteful], or can you not?

That said, if I recognize that I'm in a group that values "fairness" as an abstract virtue, then arguing that my situation isn't fair is often a useful way of solving my problem by recruiting alliances.

Rationality Quotes February 2013

Well, but in the universe of the commercials, it clearly did, so long as you went to the appropriate expert.

3[anonymous]9yGood observation. I will accept your correction: It's only weird if it doesn't work, and it doesn't work unless you're in Stevie Wonder's presence []
Rationality Quotes January 2013

And to think, I was just getting on to post this quote myself!

[minor] Separate Upvotes and Downvotes Implimented

Same thing happened to me, and I also had moved an article from Discussion to Main after it had gotten a lot of upvotes. So that's almost certainly the explanation.

Rationality Quotes January 2013

[After analyzing the hypothetical of an extra, random person dying every second.] All in all, the losses would be dramatic, but not devastating to our species as a whole. And really, in the end, the global death rate is 100%—everyone dies.

. . . or do they? Strictly speaking, the observed death rate for the human condition is something like 93%—that is, around 93% of all humans have died. This means the death rate among humans who were not members of The Beatles is significantly higher than the 50% death rate among humans who were.

--Randall Munroe, "Death Rates"

Rationality Quotes January 2013

Ah, okay, thanks for clarifying. In case my initial reply to MugaSofer was misleading, Dennett doesn't really seem to be suggesting here that this is really what most theists believe, or that many theists would try to convert atheists with this tactic. It's more just a tongue-in-cheek example of what happens when you lose track of what concept a particular group of syllables is supposed to point at.

But I think there are a great many people who purport to believe in "God," whose concept of God really is quite close to something like the "anth... (read more)

-2MugaSofer9yFor the record, I didn't interpret your comment that way.
0DaFranker9yRegarding the second paragraph, I agree with your estimate that most "spiritual but not religious" people might think this way. I was, at some point in the past, exactly there in belief-space - I identified as "spiritual but not religious" explicitly, and explicitly held beliefs along those lines (minus the "anthropomorphic" part, keeping only the "mental" or "thinking" part of the anthropomorphism for some reason). When I later realized that there was no tangible difference and no existing experiment that could tell me whether it was true, I kind of stopped caring, and eventually the questions dissipated on their own, though I couldn't tell exactly why at the time. When I found LW and read the sequences, I figured out what had happened, which was fun, but the real crisis of faith (if you can call it that - I never was religious to begin with, only "spiritual") had happened long before then. People I see who call themselves "spiritual but not religious" and also know some science seem to behave in very similar manners to how I did back then, so I think it makes sense to assume a significant amount of them believe something like this.
Rationality Quotes January 2013

Sorry, can you clarify what you mean here? None of what passes an ideological turing test? Are you saying something like "theists erroneously conclude that the proponents of evolution must believe in God because evolutionists believe that evolution is what produced all creatures great and small"? What exactly is the mistake that theists make on this point that would lead them to fail the ideological turing test?

Or, did I misunderstand you, and are you saying that people like Dennett fail the ideological turing test with theists?

1DaFranker9yOh, sorry. This, specifically, almost never passes an i-turing test IME. I've been called a "sick scientologist" (I assume they didn't know what "Scientology []" really is) on account of the claim that if there is a "God", it's the process by which evolution or physics happens to work in our world. Likewise, if I understand what Dennett is saying correctly, the things he's saying are not accepted by God-believers, namely that God could be any sort of metaphor or anthropomorphic representation of natural processes, or of the universe and its inner workings, or "fate" in the sense that "fate" and "free will" are generally understood (i.e. the dissolved explanation) by LWers, or some unknown abstract Great Arbiter of Chance and Probability. (I piled in some of my own attempts in there, but all of the above was rejected time and time again in discussion with untrained theists, down to a single exception who converted to a theology-science hybrid later on and then, last I heard, doesn't really care about theological issues anymore because they seem to have realized that it makes no difference and intuitively dissolved their questions. Discussions with people who have thoroughly studied formal theology usually fare slightly better, but they also have a much larger castle of anti-epistemology to break down.)
Rationality Quotes January 2013

In large part, yes. This passage is in Dennett's chapter on "Belief in Belief," and he has an aside on the next page describing how to "turn an atheist into a theist by just fooling around with words" -- namely, that "if 'God' were just the name of whatever it is that produced all creatures great and small, then God might turn out to be the process of evolution by natural selection."

But I think there's also a more general rationality point about keeping track of the map-territory distinction when it comes to abstract concepts, and about ensuring that we're not confusing ourselves or others by how we use words.

-2MugaSofer9yThat's what I thought. Thanks for explaining.
0DaFranker9yBesides, none of it passes an ideological turing test with an overwhelming majority of God-believers. I tried it.
Rationality Quotes January 2013

Suppose you've been surreptitiously doing me good deeds for months. If I "thank my lucky stars" when it is really you I should be thanking, it would misrepresent the situation to say that I believe in you and am grateful to you. Maybe I am a fool to say in my heart that it is only my lucky stars that I should thank—saying, in other words, that there is nobody to thank—but that is what I believe; there is no intentional object in this case to be identified as you.

Suppose instead that I was convinced that I did have a secret helper but that it wa

... (read more)
1MugaSofer9yHe's talking about God here, right?
Rationality Quotes January 2013

I answered "rarely," but I should probably qualify that. I've been an atheist for about 5 years, and in the last 2 or 3, I don't recall ever seriously thinking that the basic, factual premises of Christianity were any more likely than Greek myths. But I have had several moments -- usually following some major personal failing of mine, or maybe in others close to me -- where the Christian idea of man-as-fallen living in a fallen world made sense to me, and where I found myself unconsciously groping for something like the Christian concept of grace... (read more)

Rationality Quotes January 2013

Upvoted. I actually had a remarkably similar experience reading Lewis. Throughout college I had been undergoing a gradual transformation from "real" Christian to liberal Protestant to deist, and I ended up reading Lewis because he seemed to be the only person I could find who was firmly committed to Christianity and yet seemed willing to discuss the kind of questions I was having. Reading Mere Christianity was basically the event that let me give Christianity/theism one last look over and say "well said, but that is enough for me to know it is time to move on."

New censorship: against hypothetical violence against identifiable people

Is that your true rejection? That is, if this poll were posted to Main, and all readers were encouraged to answer, and the results came back essentially the same, would you then allow the results to influence what kind of policy to adopt? Or are you just sufficiently confident about the need for such a moderation policy that, absent clear negative consequences not previously considered, you'll implement it anyway?

I don't mean at all to suggest that the latter answer is inappropriate. Overall I trust your moderating judgment, and you clearly have more exper... (read more)

8Eliezer Yudkowsky9yNot if readers were "encouraged" to answer. If there were some way of knowing the population was representative (i.e. we selected at random and got back responses from everyone selected)... hm, possibly. I know that what people say at local LW gatherings has a stronger influence on me than what I hear online, but that could be for 'improper' reasons of face-to-face contact or greater personal familiarity.
Rationality Quotes December 2012

I don't have any previous experience with this sort of thing, but judging from what I hear and read, I'm supposed to be asking why all this is happening, and why it's happening to me. Honestly, those questions are about the farthest thing from my mind.

Partly, that’s because they aren't hard questions. Why does our world have gravity? Why does the sun rise in the East? There are technical answers, but the metaphysical answer is simple: that’s how reality works. So too here. Only in the richest parts of the rich world of the twenty-first century could anyon

... (read more)
-2chaosmosis9yThis conclusion is accurate unless he used a specifically Christian definition of "moral order".
3bbleeker9yThat reminded me of this: Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask: "Why me?" And a voice answers: "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up". Charlie Brown
By Which It May Be Judged

I don't think this works, because "fairness" is not defined as "divide up food equally" (or even "divide up resources equally"). It is the algorithm that, among other things, leads to dividing up the pie equally in the circumstances described in the original post -- i.e., "three people exactly simultaneously spot a pie which has been exogenously generated in unclaimed territory." But once you start tampering with these conditions -- suppose that one of them owned the land, or one of them baked the pie, or two were we... (read more)

3The_Duck9yYes; I meant for the phrase "divide up food equally" to be shorthand for something more correct but less compact, like "a complicated algorithm whose rough outline includes parts like, '...When a group of people are dividing up resources, divide them according to the following weighted combination of need, ownership, equality, who discovered the resources first, ...'"
Participation in the LW Community Associated with Less Bias

Did you specifically think at the time "well, if 'married' and 'unmarried' were the only two possibilities, then the answer to the question would be 'yes' -- but Anne could also be divorced or a widow, in which case the answer would be 'no,' so I have to answer 'not enough information'"?

Not accusing you of dishonesty -- if you say you specifically thought of all that, I'll believe you -- but this seems suspiciously like a counter-factual justification, which I say only because I went through such a process. My immediate response on learning that... (read more)

4Plasmon9yI recognise that it might be counter-factual justification. If I had explicitly wondered if "married/unmarried" were or were not exhaustive possibilities, I would have realised that the intent of the question was to treat them as exhaustive possibilities. The actual reasoning as I remember was "Only one of these people is known to be married, they are looking at someone of undetermined marital status". The step from "undetermined marital status" to "either married or unmarried" was not made, and, if you had asked me at the time, I might well have answered "could be divorced or something? .... wait wait of course the intent is to consider married/unmarried as exhaustive possibilities". I am pretty sure that if the question had been I would have answered correctly, probably because it pattern-matches in some way to "maths problem", where such reasoning is to be expected (not to say that such reasoning isn't universally applicable).
Rationality Quotes December 2012

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

--Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (traditionally, the third verse -- starts at 2:52 in the linked video)

An unusual choice, to be sure. But notwithstanding the obvious religious content, I actually find this piece of the hymn to be a beautiful expression of genuine transhumanist sentiment. We've previousl... (read more)

Rationality Quotes November 2012

At the very least, even assuming there's no reason to worry about your own death, you would probably still care about the deaths of others -- at least your friends and family. Given a group of people who mutually value having each other in their lives, death should still be a subject of enormous concern. I don't grant the premise that we shouldn't be concerned about death even for ourselves, but I don't think that premise is enough to justify Epicurus's attitude here.

Of course, for most of human history, there genuinely wasn't much of anything that could ... (read more)

[Link] "An OKCupid Profile of a Rationalist"

This response is such a strawman! No one's arguing that "the right to conduct sexual activities in any way without being judged" is a "sacred value" that "overrides any consequentialist concern for actually producing more effective rationalists." If every other post by Eliezer made specific, detailed reference to his dalmatian fetish, or if SIAI had a specific section of their website listing the fetishes and relationship styles of all their members, then yes, that would likely be problematic -- because it would be seriously, ... (read more)

[Link] "An OKCupid Profile of a Rationalist"

So far, the evidence that this profile is a PR problem seems limited to a handful of negative comments on one Internet comment thread. Most of those comments are limited to the idea that the post is too boastful or too open, and thus unlikely to be successful in attracting women. And the same thread includes people with neutral or positive responses at roughly the same frequency (maybe a little lower, but the same order of magnitude). This evidence falls well below what I would consider sufficient to trot this issue out in public, much less to demand that ... (read more)

3TorqueDrifter9yMy understanding is that contraceptive use significantly decreases abortion rates, while outlawing abortion does not, yet anti-abortion activists often oppose the former and support the latter, revealing unjustifiable ignorance or ulterior motives.
[Link] "An OKCupid Profile of a Rationalist"

I'm pretty uncomfortable with... well, just about everything in this post.

First, even assuming that lots of commenters at Marginal Revolution "reacted negatively" to the profile, I find it hard to believe that it could really have much effect on the general LW project of "raising the sanity waterline." Fine, Eliezer talks about some personal things that most people wouldn't mention publicly and, surprise surprise, some people have a sharp reaction to that. But how many out there are really going to think "oh my, this 'rationality'... (read more)

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Took basically all of the survey except for the extra IQ tests. Thanks, Yvain! Looking forward to seeing the results.

Open Thread, November 1-15, 2012

Thanks to everyone for all the answers. I'd say this one makes the most sense to me -- pretty quick to say and easily scalable for any number -- but I guess there's just not one, well-accepted convention.

Open Thread, November 1-15, 2012

This is a random question, and I have poked around a bit on Google looking for the answer: what's the convention for pronouncing particular instances of Knuth's up-arrow notation? Like, if you had 3^^^3, how would you actually say that out loud? I always find myself stumbling through something like "three three-up-arrows three," but that seems terribly clunky. I also read somewhere that "3^^^3" would read as "three threes," which is more elegant, but doesn't seem to work when the numbers are different -- e.g., how would you say "3^^^4"? Anyway, I figured someone here would know.

0FiftyTwo9yI would say "power of" So "three to the power of the power of the power of three"
3Nisan9yI don't care what the convention is, but I say "three to the to the to the three!".
3EricHerboso9yIt's been a few years since I heard this pronounced aloud, but my old undergrad prof's pronunciation of "3^^^3" was "3 hyper5 3". The "hyper5" part refers to the fact that three up-arrows is pentation. Similarly, "x^^y" is "x hyper4 y", because two up-arrows indicate tetration. In general, add 2 to the number of up-arrows, and that's the hyper number you'd use. (I should mention that I've never heard it used by anyone other than him, so it might have been just his way of saying it, as opposed to the way of saying it.)

Regardless of the specific numbers, or the number of up-arrows, the correct pronunciation is "kajillion".

3[anonymous]9yThe ^^ operation is called tetration, so I'd guess ^^^ is pentation. So 3^^^3 would be “three pentated to three”, or something like that.
2DaFranker9y(Not serious:) Instead of the third power of three, it's the "third triforce [] of three"!
8badger9yI've heard "three up up up three", which is concise and not easily confused with other operations. If I heard "three threes", I'd interpret that as meaning 9.
1daenerys9y"Three triple-caret four" is what I've heard. I'm not a math person though, so take it with a grain of salt.
Proofs, Implications, and Models

Yeah, we were taught in basically the exact same way -- moving around different colored weights on plastic print-outs of balances. I'll also note that this was a public (non-magnet) school -- a reasonably good public school in the suburbs, to be sure, but not what I would think of as an especially advanced primary education.

I join lots of other commenters as being genuinely surprised that the content of this post is understood so little, even by mathematicians, as it all seemed pretty common sense to me. Indeed, my instinctive response to the first meditation was almost exactly what Eliezer went on to say, but I kept trying to think of something else for a while because it seemed too obvious.

Rationality Quotes October 2012

What would be a better way to teach young children about the nuances of the scientific method? This isn't meant as a snarky reply. I'm reasonably confident that Tom Murphy is onto something here, and I doubt most elementary school science fairs are optimized for conveying scientific principles with as much nuance as possible.

But it's not clear to me what sort of process would be much better, and even upon reading the full post, the closest he comes to addressing this point is "don't interpret failure to prove the hypothesis as failure of the project.... (read more)

3[anonymous]9yWell, doing experiments to test which of several plausible hypotheses is more accurate, rather than those where you can easily guess what's going to happen beforehand, would be a start. (Testing whether light can travel through the dark? Seriously, WTF?)
2012 Less Wrong Census Survey: Call For Critiques/Questions

Agree that there needs to be a cryonics option amounting to something like "no, but planning to sign up." I'd refrain from calling it "cryocrastinating" in the survey, both because that phrase has a judgmental tinge that, even if warranted, probably doesn't belong in survey answers, and also because it's possible that you could be purposefully delaying without it being mere procrastination -- for example, maybe you anticipate starting a job in the near future that will make it significantly easier to fund a life insurance policy.

2012 Less Wrong Census Survey: Call For Critiques/Questions

I agree that splitting up libertarianism into subcategories would likely yield some benefit. As I understand the "left vs. right" aspect of this question, the difference would mostly come down to what the person thinks about the state's role in providing social insurance. Presumably all libertarians would support a high degree of economic and social liberty -- basically letting people make decisions for themselves so long as those decisions are voluntary and they don't hurt non-consenting parties. But where "left libertarians" would be ... (read more)

Problem of Optimal False Information

Well, maybe. I'm actually skeptical that it would have much effect on my productivity. But to reverse the question, suppose you actually did know this about your boss. If you could snap your fingers and erase the knowledge from your brain, would you do it? Would you go on deleting all information that causes you to resent someone, so long as that information wasn't visibly relevant to some other pending decision?

0ChristianKl9yDeleting information doesn't make emotions go away. Being afraid and not knowing the reason for being afraid is much worse than just being afraid. You start to rationalize the emotions with bogus stories to get the emotions make sense.
Problem of Optimal False Information

Would you want him to tell you that your new boss secretly burns little puppies at night? The boss also doesn't take it kindly if people critizise him for it.

Well, yes, I would. Of course, it's not like he could actually say to me "your boss secretly burns puppies -- do you want to know this or not?" But if he said something like "your boss has a dark and disturbing secret which might concern you; we won't get in trouble just for talking about it, but he won't take kindly to criticism -- do you want me to tell you?", then yeah, I wou... (read more)

0ChristianKl9yKnowing the dark secret will produce resentment for your boss. That resentment is likely to make it harder for you to get work done. If you see him with a big smile in the morning you won't think: "He seems like a nice guy because he's smilling" but "Is he so happy because he burned puppies yesterday?"
Problem of Optimal False Information

Oops, meant to say "years." Fixed now. Thanks!

0wedrifid9yI honestly didn't notice the missing word. I seemed to have just read "units" as a default. My reference was to the long time user by that name [] who does, in fact, deal in bliss of a certain kind.
Problem of Optimal False Information

Even if it's a basilisk? Omega says: "Surprise! You're in a simulation run by what you might as well consider evil demons, and anyone who learns of their existence will be tortured horrifically for 3^^^3 subjective years. Oh, and by the way, the falsehood was that the simulation is run by a dude named Kevin who will offer 3^^^3 years of eutopian bliss to anyone who believes he exists. I would have used outside-of-the-Matrix magic to make you believe that was true. The demons were presented with elaborate thought experiments when they studied philosoph... (read more)

1wedrifid9y3^^^3 units of simulated Kratom?
-2RichardKennaway9yThat's the problem. The question is the rationalist equivalent of asking "Suppose God said he wanted you to kidnap children and torture them?" I'm telling Omega to just piss off.
0MixedNuts9yOmega could create the demons when you open the box, or if that's too truth-twisting, before asking you.
Problem of Optimal False Information

Can we solve this problem by slightly modifying the hypothetical to say that Omega is computing your utility function perfectly in every respect except for whatever extent you care about truth for its own sake? Depending on exactly how we define Omega's capabilities and the concept of utility, there probably is a sense in which the answer really is determined by definition (or in which the example is impossible to construct). But I took the spirit of the question to be "you are effectively guaranteed to get a massively huge dose of utility/disutility in basically every respect, but it's the product of believing a false/true statement -- what say you?"

Problem of Optimal False Information

Okay, I suppose that probably is a more relevant question. The best answer I can give is that I would be extremely hesitant to do this. I've never experienced anything like this, so I'm open to the idea that there's a pain here I simply can't understand. But I would certainly want to work very hard to find a way to deal with the situation without erasing my memory, and I would expect to do better in the long-term because of it. Having any substantial part of my memory erased is a terrifying thought to me, as it's really about the closest thing I can imagin... (read more)

0[anonymous]6yFor some genotypes, more trauma is associated with lower levels of depression [] Yet, someone experiencing trauma that they are better off continuing to suffer would hypothetically lead to learned helplessness and worse depression. But it's true, yet false belief is more productive. That said, genetic epidemiology is weird [] and I haven't looked at the literature beyodndon't understand the literature beyond this book. I was prompted to investigate it based on some counterintuitive outcomes regarding treatment for psychological trauama and depressive symptomology, established counterintuitive results about mindfulness and depressive symptoms in Parkinsons and Schizophrenia, and some disclosed SNP's sequences from a known individual.
Problem of Optimal False Information

I would pick the black box, but it's a hard choice. Given all the usual suppositions about Omega as a sufficiently trustworthy superintelligence, I would assume that the utilities really were as it said and take the false information. But it would be a painful, both because I want to be the kind of person who pursues and acts upon the truth, and also because I would be desperately curious to know what sort of true and non-misleading belief could cause that much disutility -- was Lovecraft right after all? I'd probably try to bargain with Omega to let me kn... (read more)

0ChristianKl9yNobody makes plans based on totally accurate maps. Good maps contain simplifications of reality to allow you to make better decisions. You start to teach children how atoms work by putting the image atoms as spheres into their heads. You don't start by teaching them a model that's up to date with the current scientific knowledge of how atoms works. The current model is more accurate but less useful for the children. You calculate how airplanes fly with Newtons equations instead of using Einstein's. In social situations it can also often help to avoid getting certain information. You don't have job. You ask a friend to get you a job. The job pays well. He assures you that the work you are doing helps the greater good of the world. He however also tells you that some of the people you will work with do things in their private lifes that you don't like. Would you want him to tell you that your new boss secretly burns little puppies at night? The boss also doesn't take it kindly if people critizise him for it.
0[anonymous]9yAzatoth built you in such a way [] that having certain beliefs can screw you over, even when they're true. (Well, I think it's the aliefs [] that actually matter, but deliberately keeping aliefs and beliefs separate is an Advanced Technique.)
1Endovior9yThat's exactly why the problem invokes Omega, yes. You need an awful lot of information to know which false beliefs actually are superior to the truth (and which facts might be harmful), and by the time you have it, it's generally too late. That said, the best real-world analogy that exists remains amnesia drugs. If you did have a traumatic experience, serious enough that you felt unable to cope with it, and you were experiencing PTSD or depression related to the trauma that impeded you from continuing with your life... but a magic pill could make it all go away, with no side effects, and with enough precision that you'd forget only the traumatic event... would you take the pill?
Causal Diagrams and Causal Models

Right, it seems like "Burglar" and "Recession" should switch places in the third diagram.

Rationality Quotes October 2012

Ah, fair enough. I suppose the title of the work and the idea of an actual course on Munchkinry should have been clues about the setting.

Rationality Quotes October 2012

This is a clever little exchange, and I'm generally all about munchkinry as a rationalist's tool. But as a lawyer, this specific example bothers me because it relies on and reinforces a common misunderstanding about law -- the idea that courts interpret legal documents by giving words a strict or literal meaning, rather than their ordinary meaning. The maxim that "all text must be interpreted in context" is so widespread in the law as to be a cliche, but law in fiction rarely acknowledges this concept.

So in the example above, courts would never ... (read more)

1[anonymous]9yIn Italy, IIRC, some kind of rule explicitly specifies the maximum number of days, and the maximum number of consecutive days, a school child can be absent (except for health reason). Otherwise, would going to school four days a week count as “attending”? Natural language's fuzziness is a feature in normal usage, but a bug if you have a law and you need to decide how to handle borderline cases.
8Alicorn9yYes, but the setting in question is a D&D universe and many things work differently, rules-in-general most certainly included.
Rationality Quotes October 2012

Agreed. Though of course, I don't really see Faramir as disagreeing -- it was, after all, the Rangers of Ithilien who ambushed the Haradrim and killed the soldier they're talking about.

6wedrifid9yI'm a little bit proud that I don't know who all these people are.
Rationality Quotes September 2012

I hate to break up the fun, and I'm sure we could keep going on about this, but Decius's original point was just that giving a wrong answer to an open-ended question is trivially easy. We can play word games and come up with elaborate counter-factuals, but the substance of that point is clearly correct, so maybe we should just move on.

4Decius9yThat was exactly the challenge I issued. Granted, it's trivial to write an answer which is wrong for that question, but it shows that I can't find a wrong answer for an arbitrary question as easily as I thought I could.
Rationality Quotes October 2012

Frodo: Those that claim to oppose the Enemy would do well not to hinder us.

Faramir: The Enemy? (turns over body of an enemy soldier) His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he came from, and if he was really evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, and if he'd not rather have stayed there... in peace. War will make corpses of us all.

-- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (extended edition)

What Faramir says contains wisdom but so do Frodo's words. The enemy is trying to destroy the world with some kind of epic high fantasy apocalypse. Frodo does not terminally value the death (heh) of specific foot soldiers. They may be noble and virtuous and their deaths a tragic waste. But Frodo has something to protect and also has baddass allies who return from the (mostly) dead with a wardrobe change. But he doesn't have enough power to give himself a batman-like self-handicap of using non-lethal force. Killing those who get in his way (but lamenting the necessity) is the right thing for him to do and so yes, people would do well not to hinder him.

Rationality Quotes September 2012

Qhorin Halfhand: The Watch has given you a great gift. And you only have one thing to give in return: your life.

Jon Snow: I'd gladly give my life.

Qhorin Halfhand: I don’t want you to be glad about it! I want you to curse and fight until your heart’s done pumping.

--Game of Thrones, Season 2.

Reminds me of Patton:

No man ever won a war by dying for his country. Wars were won by making the other poor bastard die for his. You don't win a war by dying for your country.

7Ezekiel9yAlso effort, expertise, and insider information on one of the most powerful Houses around. And magic powers.
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